Firat Solak is an Explore Tour Leader from Turkey. He was chosen as the recipient of our Regional Tour Leader Awards and had the unique opportunity to join our Imperial Cities and Desert adventure in Morocco as a customer. Here he shares his experiences.
"Morocco ıs a destination where you can see contrasts of cultures, well-preserved traditions and great harmony of Islamic and Berber architecture.
One of the few places ın the world where geopraphy dominated ıts history, the Atlas mountains are like a wall between the desert and the Mediterranean and has always been on the border of empires.
The tour I joined started in Casablanca. I had 4-5 hours before meeting with the rest of the group so I walked around and explored. No matter what people say about Casablanca I think ıt was one of the worth seeing cities of Morocco. Especially the symbol of the city, Hassan II mosque with 25 thousand people capacity and old medina. Graffiti in Casablanca is also quite impressive and has social messages.
After meeting the group we carried on to Meknes via Rabat. As a capital Rabat is quıte tidy, formal and more european city than expected. Royal palaces and mausoleum complex with Hassan tower were the evidence of the imperial capital. White-washed houses with indigo paintings in Kasbah des Oudaias were my highlight in Rabat. Next day, before visiting the great roman city of Volubilis, we had a chance to explore Meknes. I think the square of Meknes will become the next Djemma El Fna in very close future!
Volubilis is one of the largest ancient cities of Roman times. Mosaics were in a good condition in residential area of the city. After having picnic with a view of the tample. we hit the road to Fes.
One of the most famous picturesque parts of Morocco are the tanneries in Fes. İt's located in the heart of Fes el Bali. You have got to have a guide in Fes El Bali (old Fes), I cant imagine wondering by myself. ıt was the most complicated medina of Morocco. Even I had to work as a co-guide to get group together! But ıt was fun to wonder around bustling medina and souks.
After Fes we drove over the mid-Atlas to Erfoud. The route was so spectacular and remote. Every 10-2 km we saw different Berber tribes in different colors. Meski oasis, where we stoped for photo break, seemed like a mirage with date trees.
We had a Berber night in Erfoud and It was nice to see folk dance during diner with group…
Next day we explored Erfoud kasbahs and drove to Merzouga where we rode camels and stayed in a berber stayle campsite. I think this activity was the top higlight of the trip. 1.5 hours camel ride was tougher than my expectations but sunset over sand dunes made me forget! Tagine and desert-made bread we ate at our camp here was one of the best we had in whole trip. Early morning departure from the desert and we rode back to hotel where we had best hot shower after sandy camping.
After Merzouga we drove to Todra Gorge area and did 5-6 hours walk. Although ıt was a very windy day we made it to the top and met some Berber nomads and had mint tea with them, shared cookies with kids and took lots of photos.
Next stop was Ait Bin Haddou. Hollywood of Morocco. It's a world heritage kasbah where dozens of films were shot but most famous one is ‘’Gladiator’’. During our visit we had tea in one of the houses in Kasbah in which Russell Crowe was imprisoned in the film.
Before we reach the coastal town Essaouira we stayed in İmlil where is the base for trekkers for High Atlas mountains. İmlil is a small town. Economy is based on tourism but still keeps its culture and traditions. We had a short village hike around to get close to local life.
On the we way we also stoped by a local market which was quite interesting.
Essaouira was like an old hippy town turned to summer destination of Morocco. Located by Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ramparts and seagulls Essaouira must be most exotic town of Morocco. We had free days here and explored stunnıng sandy beach, mMllah(jewish quarter) and old medina.
Finally we arriveed to most famous city of Morocco, MARRAKECH.
Djemma el Fna must be most chaotic square in the world. Every corner we saw some people doing somethng. Snake charmers, story tellers, belly dancers, game corners, monkey players. After sunset portable restourants are set up and try to catch custumers. We had our dinner in one of them which was memorable.
Next day we visited Koutoubia Mosque, Ben Youssef Medressa, St Laurents Gradens, and got lost around the souks. Thanks to locals we found our way back to square. Marrakech was also one of the major highlights of the trip.
I really enjoyed my 2 weeks in Morocco. Special thanks to our driver Abdul, asistant Ali and tour leader Lhoucin for making trip memorable for us all…"
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